Published September 22, 2019

In an abrupt, yet not surprising policy decision, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it is putting a halt to a Deferred Action program that has been a part of the immigration law and prosecutorial discretion landscape for more than 4 decades.  The political reasons for this announcement are obvious, but there exists no real practical reason for the program’s termination since it’s been employed so sparingly during its life.

What is Deferred Action?   It is a formal statement by the Executive Branch of our government via U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that it will not seek to deport a particular foreign national who is present in the U.S. in violation of our immigration laws.   With some exceptions, Deferred Action is rarely applied for and even more rarely granted.  When Deferred Action is approved, it is only in the most extreme humanitarian, sympathetic or urgent circumstances.    Importantly, the foreign nationals seeking Deferred Action are usually not fighting an imminent deportation process, but instead are seeking a grant of such status for other reasons, such as to receive an Employment Authorization Document (see discussion below).

A Deferred Action request, if granted, will be for a 2 year term, and with its issuance, the foreign national is able to obtain an Employment Authorization Document.   A general Deferred Action is different from the more high profile Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed 700,000+ undocumented foreign nationals to come out of the shadows and be issued Employment Authorization Documents if they arrived as young children.   It should be noted that DACA will not be impacted in any way by the recent announcement regarding general Deferred Action.   Further, the recent announcement does not impact the Deferred Action program now in place specifically benefiting certain family members of enlisted U.S. military members.

UPDATE: The Deferred Action program, following massive public outcry, has been reinstated to a limited degree, and only for applicants with the most serious illnesses or humanitarian circumstances.


PUBLISHED September 22, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois